African Religion and Its Influence on Christianity and Islam Assignment

African Religion and Its Influence on Christianity and Islam Assignment Words: 631

African Religion and its Influence on Christianity and Islam Traditional African religion has been the basis of spirituality for the people of Africa. “Although Christianity and Islam have added distinct elements to African religions, each has been and continued to be adapted to and shaped by Africa’s indigenous religious heritage” [Ambrose Moyo, 2007:326 "Religion in Africa” in G&G. Understanding Contemporary Africa, pp. 317-350]. This influence is strongly demonstrated in the films: Wonders of the African World (The Swahili Coast), and Man, God and Africa.

In the documentary, Wonders of the African World, Henry Gates, Jr. travels along the Swahili Coast and examines its people and culture. The Swahili people share many characteristics from African and Arabic cultures. The most popular religion along the Swahili Coast is Islam. Swahili Islam is predominantly Sunni. Islam is not only a religion for the Swahili people, but also a way of life. Most Swahili people accept beliefs from both the Koran and traditional African religion. For example, in the film, a Muslim man had multiple wives and practiced polygamy.

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In Islam today, polygamy is condemned and not practiced within the religion. However, according to African tradition, polygamy is practiced throughout the continent. Spirituality and indigenous African religions are seen throughout the Swahili Coast. Muslim people of East Africa are deeply influenced by African traditions and customs. For example, Muslims in East Africa rarely follow basic principles of Islam, such as prayer five times a day and fasting during Ramadan. Christianity in Africa is strongly influenced by the local traditions and customs.

The film Man, God and Africa captures the joyous singing and rhythmic movement that is common to the various black churches. It shows the African influence on funerals, baptisms, and weddings. Differences in western Christianity and African Christianity are enormous, but the basis of the religion is the same. In African church services, there is more chanting, singing, and traditional instrumental music such as the drums and maracas. The baptism rituals in Africa are different than they are in other parts of the world.

In the film, people were being baptized at a local beach on the coast. In the US, baptisms are usually private and not open in a public beach. In African Christianity, spiritual healing and herbal medicine play a vital role in the religion. In the film Man, God and Africa, for example, there was a traditional healer lady known as “the sangoma. ” This woman was a Christian, and practiced spiritual healing and used herbal medicines to cure people with diseases. Another was that African tradition influenced Christianity was by the practicing of polygamy by bishops and priests of a church.

In the Bible, polygamy is condemned and it is considered a sin. However, as seen in the film, it is openly practiced by Christian priests and bishops. Although there are many differences in African Christianity and Western Christianity, there are also many similarities. The basis of Christianity in Africa is the same as Christianity in other parts of the world, no matter how much African tradition there is. For example, in the film Man, God and Africa, the wedding ceremony at the end of the film is very similar to Christian wedding ceremonies in the US culture.

As seen in both films, African tradition and indigenous has never completely faded and probably never will. As long as there are people to uphold traditions, they will always be present in Africa. Islam and Christianity in Africa have many differences that are influenced by African traditions and customs, but the basis of both religions are strongly influenced by other parts of the world. African Islam is strongly influenced by Arabic Islam, and African Christianity is strongly impacted by western Christianity.